Hiba Tawaji Saved By The Public Votes One More Time!

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Hiba

Hiba is officially in the semi-finals of The Voice France after winning the public vote one more time. The next round will take place on April 18th and will feature the remaining 8 candidates:
– Camille Lellouche
– Anne Sila
– Battista Acquaviva
– Côme
– David Thibault
– Guilhem Valayé
– Lilian Renaud

I think Battista Acquaviva is the biggest threat to Hiba Tawaji as she has a truly impressive voice.

mika

Mika was impressed by Hiba’s performance but Jennifer wasn’t very convinced and wants Hiba to sing in Arabic like she did at the start of the show. Honestly, I think Hiba is playing it safe and leaving the best for last which is a smart strategy, plus I wouldn’t trust Jennifer specially after what she did with Anthony Touma.

Here is Hiba’s performance:

[YouTube]

Confirmed: Salma Hayek Coming To Beirut For Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Movie Premiere On April 27

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Salma

I wrote a couple of weeks back that Gebran Khalil Gebran’s The Prophet animated movie is set to be released on August 7 2015 in LA and New York, but I had heard that it might debut in Beirut by end of April and the news got confirmed few days ago on the movie’s Facebook page. Salma Hayek is coming to Beirut on April 27 for The Prophet’s Beirut premiere and worldwide launch!

The Prophet will feature a voice cast including Salma Hayek as Kamila little Almitra’s mother, Liam Neeson as Mustafa, John Krasinski as Halim, Alfred Molina as Sergeant, Quvenzhané Wallis as Almitra and Frank Langella as Pasha. Gebran Khalil Gebran was born in 1884 in Bcharreh, a village in the north of Lebanon in 1884 where he was buried and a museum was inaugurated in his memory in Mar Sarkis’ monastery. The Prophet was published in 1923 and is Gebran’s most popular work. The book has been translated into over 40 languages and has sold over 100 million copies.

I’m really looking forward to this movie and I hope I will get to meet Salma Hayek in Beirut. Check out the movie’s [trailer] in case you haven’t already.

Go Watch Fast & Furious 7!

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ff7 via walkwidehd

I missed out on Fast & Furious 7’s avant-premiere but I finally got to watch it yesterday and I absolutely loved it. To be honest, I was expecting to get bored at some time because I heard it’s too long and laugh at all the fake scenes and flying cars, but the movie was exciting and captivating the whole way through, the ridiculousness of the action scenes was entertaining in itself and the best part for me was the emotional ending and the great tribute to Paul Walker.

The scene I loved the most was the one on the mountain as I felt like I was in a Need For Speed race, and the scenes shot in Abu Dhabi are pretty impressive to say the least. Funnily enough, the Lykan Hypersport flying from one tower to the other was more realistic or should I say less fake than most of the other scene and car chases, but it was a great scene even though I wanted to see that super-car race on the ground. There’s one thing I didn’t appreciate in Abu Dhabi and Colorado which is how the scenes are cut and how we move from one place to another without understanding what happened or how they managed to get away. Speaking of Abu Dhabi, what’s up with the hot babes and extravagant parties? Is that really what goes on there?

In terms of acting, I was worried that Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw) might ruin the series but he turned out to be a fine addition and the cars they chose for me were just perfect, specially the 2015 Maserati Quattroporte. Otherwise, Vin Diesel was good, Roman Pearce and Tej Parker are hilarious, Kurt Russel is cool but looks really old, Letty Ortiz was a bit boring unlike the new girl Ramsey. Paul Walker was still my favorite actor among the gang and he will truly missed.

All in all, Fast & Furious 7 defies all the laws of physics but it’s thrilling and fun and Walker’s final tribute is a genuine and touching one. I never thought I’d be saying that, but I can’t wait for the next one!

Rating: 4/5

Can You Live With 11,000LL for 5 days? Three AUB Students Are Taking The Live Below The Line Challenge

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Haifa

30,000 people from all over the world are taking the “Live Below The Line” challenge by spending £1 (2,200LL) a day for 5 days and attempting to raise over £7 million for the world’s leading anti-poverty organisations. Out of these 30,000 there are three AUB students that are taking the challenge, Haifa Harb, Sandra Shaban and Hadeel Hmaidi and raising money for Human Care Syria, an organization that delivers quality humanitarian aid and development programmes to affected communities in Syria and neighbouring countries.

Haifa is already at Day4 and has exceeded her goal of £1000 while Hadeel and Sandra are on their last day have also exceeded their £400 set goal. What’s important is that you can still donate and show support to these three brave girls because what they are doing is really amazing and tough. I honestly don’t think I can pull off such a thing while having a full time job (two actually) but if anyone wants to participate, all the information you need is on the [website].

Haifa1

Just to give you an idea of what your meal is like if you can spend only 2200LL per day, Haifa had:
– 1 egg and 1 banana for breakfast.
– 1 cup of noodles and 2 rolls of bread for lunch.
– 1 banana and 1 roll of bread for dinner.

If you wish to donate to any of the three candidates, here’s the [link] for Haifa, the [link] for Hadeel and the [link] for Sandra.

Update: There’s also Farah Hashem taking the challenge. You can help her meet her goal [here].

PS: If you know other Lebanese or students in Lebanon taking the challenge, please let me know so I can add them.

Hadeel Hmaidi

A Happy Story From Zahle This Time

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happy via Annahar

When I wrote about the 7 year old child that got killed by a pitbull in Zahle last week, I attacked those who are training dogs for illegal fights and stated that this practice is unfortunately very common in the area, but what I didn’t say and should have is that there are as many people in Zahle that love dogs and take great care of them. The dog (Max) in the video below could have easily drowned in the frozen Berdanoui waters but his owner and a couple of Zahle guys rushed to his rescue and saved him in time.

Unfortunately, animal abuse is still very common in Lebanon and most of the incidents reported are bad ones but there are good people out there still trying to do the right thing. Only yesterday, I wrote about a hyena that was killed and another snatched from his mother in Akkar, and I’m following up on the story with a couple of friends to see if they will be able to bring the hyena cub back to his mother, but they told me it’s almost impossible for that to happen now that the hyena has formed bonds with other animals and humans. Nevertheless, it’s still better to take the hyena from this ignorant hunter and put him in a safe shelter.

[YouTube]

Leave Lebanon’s Hyenas Alone!

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Hyena1 via LBCI

The man showing in the picture above is called Mashhour Ghossen as per Akkar News’s Facebook page and he’s bragging about snatching a baby Hyena from his mother. He was hunting apparently when he found the mother with her three children and thought it would be a good idea to steal one of her babies. The two men below weren’t interested in raising hyenas at home so they decided to kill the poor little animal for no reason and pose for pictures.

Akkar2

This is not the first time hyenas are killed and abused in Lebanon even though they are harmless gentle creatures. Unfortunately, there’s this misconception that they are cruel and dangerous animals and they attack humans which is not true specially when it comes to striped hyenas. The Lebanese hyena is an endangered species and plays a crucial role by cleaning forests from carcasses and bones, which is why we need to condemn these attacks and fine people who harm hyenas from now on.

Protecting hyenas and Lebanon’s wildlife animals in general is a very important matter and the concerned ministries, mainly the Ministry of Environment, should enforce the 2004 law once and for all. It is no longer acceptable to see people posting pictures of killing hyenas and media outlets sharing their stories without taking any action. The guy’s name is mentioned in the article so the authorities should go after him and bring back the hyena cub to his mother. They should also arrest those who killed the hyena cub and warn them or reprimand them somehow.

Once and for all, hyenas are not like the ones you remember from the Lion King. They may not be the nicest looking creatures but they are harmless and will soon disappear if we don’t stop killing them.

Thank you Nadine Mazloum for highlighting these wrongdoings

Are You Man Enough Beirut? Let’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

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scar Any volunteers to teach me how to walk in heels?

My awesome Uf Concepts friends are bringing the “Walk A mile In Her Shoes” event to Beirut in an attempt to raise awareness on violence against women and raise funds for KAFA by selling heels to men. You heard me right, Lebanese men will be asked to walk or run in heels for 1 mile on April 26 starting 10:00 AM at Waterfront City Dbayeh.

I got my heels yesterday and you can buy yours from Le Mall Dbayyeh and Sin el Fil (April 11,12 & 18,19). I’ve already convinced a couple of friends to join me and anyone is more than welcome to join the BlogBaladi team. We will have some fun and walk for a good cause that concerns us all. Check out the [website] and [Facebook] page.

[YouTube]

If you want more info, call 00961 70 519171 or email info@ufconcepts.me. You can also smoke-signal them at 34.301221,36.117094.

20150407-WAMIHS-Beirut-Insta-FB-Photo-BlogBaladi

What’s Stopping Beirut From Becoming A Tech Hub For The Middle East?

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FIBER-OPTICS via Executive-Magazine

Mike Butcher (Techcrunch) believes that “Beirut is rapidly shaping up to be a powerhouse for startups in the Middle East”, and that “Lebanon is uniquely posed to generate startups which aim both at the Arab world and the wider world at large”. Of course these are not just talks as Lebanon has everything from tech campuses, talented software engineers, successful entrepreneurs, a growing number of investors and accelerators, award-winning startups and more importantly a $400 million investment by Lebanon’s Central Bank through Circular No. 331.

So why isn’t Lebanon a tech hub yet?
Lebanon has everything except one tiny yet crucial thing, which is a fast and abundant internet. Butcher pointed out that the current average internet speed in Lebanon is 3.11 Mbps (vs 27.9 Mbps in the UAE) but it’s not really the case as the speeds outside Beirut are much lower and barely reach 1Mbps in some areas. Moreover, the changes that MP Harb introduced last year required an increase in bandwidth by Ogero which never took place and therefore forced some ISPs to charge the unlimited night traffic. The only fast and reliable connections nowadays are the 3G and 4G mobile data plans but they are relatively expensive if you need a plan bigger than 10GB.

Who’s to blame for the internet?
This issue has been dragging for quite some time, and is the result of the endless political bickering between the Telecom Ministry and Ogero. We thought that things would improve now that both the minister and Ogero are on the same political side, but things actually got worse somehow. It could be due to the lack of coordination between the two parties or/and the lack of expertise of Minister Harb in Telecom given that he’s a lawyer. Funnily enough, if we look back at previous strategies of implementing changes without coordinating with the other party, some of them actually worked out and forced others parties to adapt after a while (while end users suffered) so this “crisis” we are in might actually lead to something better in the near future but no one knows when. In fact, the sad part is that we can’t get any of the two parties to explain what’s happening and the proof is the latest Executive Magazine interview with Ogero’s head Abdel Moneim Youssef. Here are 3 small paragraphs that sum up the whole interview and leaves all our questions in regards to the internet and the future of fiber optics unanswered:

When asked why the new fiber optic network contracted in 2011 — which now connects the bulk of the central offices in Lebanon as well as many of the country’s heavy users such as universities and hospitals — has not been turned on, Youssef immediately retorted on the semantics, not the substance, of our question. ‘Heavy users’ is a meaningless term, he shot back, embarking on a diatribe arguing that the term was “not even a word.” If you look up ‘heavy users’ on Google, he said, it would yield no results. He went further to say that ‘heavy users’ was only a term used by people in Lebanon, to describe a concept that does not exist in the rest of the world’s parlance.

To close the discussion, he invited Executive to call up all of our sources and tell them they were wrong. “They are completely ignorant,” he said. Every source we had cited in our interview — the advisers to the Ministry of Telecommunications, the consultants, the internet services providers — were implied. All of them.

After we dismissed some ideas implied by our interviewee — such as buying shovels and digging trenches to check for the presence of cables, or calling respected experts to insult them — the net gain of 40 minutes’ exposure to Youssef’s mastery in haranguing was thin. What we learned was that the questions we were asking, for some reason, were questions that Youssef did not want to answer.

What’s next?
As Butcher stated, the building blocks are all there to transform Beirut into a tech hub for the MENA region, but we need decent internet for that to happen and I still find it hard to believe that Ogero or the Telecom Ministry don’t want this to happen. They have everything to win by enhancing the internet speeds and everything to lose by not doing so. In all cases, I hope we get some answers in the weeks or months to come but until then, Dubai is becoming a vibrant startup hub for the Middle East and that’s where all Lebanese entrepreneurs are or will be going.

Don’t Blame The Pitbull For Killing The Poor Kid In Zahle, Blame The Trainer

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dog The trainer hit the dog with a sharp tool on his head to keep him away from the kid – via Annahar

A seven year old boy was killed yesterday after a dog attacked him in his family’s farm. The incident happened after the boy’s father was cleaning one of the kennels and somehow the dog, which looks like a Pitbull Terrier, grabbed the kid by his head and killed him instantly. Of course this is a terrible accident and I offer my condolences to the parents, but the kennel needs to be closed down if it’s training dogs for fights. I already asked a couple of people and they told me it’s a common practice to train dogs for illegal fights in the Bekaa and elsewhere.

A lot of people have a misconception that pit bulls are more violent than other dogs, but I think it all comes back to how the dog is treated. Any dog from any breed can be aggressive if he’s abused and trained to fight and any dog can be gentle if he’s treated humanely. Even if some argue that pit bulls are genetically different than other dogs, and pit bulls have a very strong bite when compared to other breeds, the owners should take the proper measures like using muzzles when they train a pit bull as a guard dog or for fighting. I think the police should investigate all kennels not just this one to put an end to these illegal fights and try to prevent future dog maulings.

In all cases, it’s a tragic incident that’s for sure but something needs to be done about some training camps and kennels because the process of raising and training fighting dogs is cruel and harmful to animals. Here’s one of many [videos] that shows how brutal this sport is.

PS: I just learned today that the movie “How To Train Your Dragon” is about dogs. I should watch it soon. Thanks Nadine!

Cellular Lines Starting 81 Will Soon Be Available In Lebanon

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Telecom Minister Boutros Harb announced that he’s adding one million mobile lines (range starting 81) in order to meet the country’s growing demands for the next 25 years. The minister also asked “both mobile operators to grant those defaulting on their subscription fees a three-month ultimatum before deactivating their lines.”

Harb

I had asked Minister Harb to reconsider as well the extra consumption rates in Lebanon as they are unacceptable and he replied that he’ll take it into consideration, so let’s hope we will see a change some time soon. As far as DSL is concerned and the fate of fiber optics in Lebanon, Executive Magazine interviewed Abdel Menhem Youssef for 40 minutes but I couldn’t conclude anything from the interview.

Thanks Hadi!